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A storytime classic?

By Robin Dearing
Somehow I managed to live some 30-odd years without ever perusing the 1922 children’s book, The Velveteen Rabbit. One of my mothers-in-law gave my now 5-year-old daughter a copy of this classic by Margery Williams. Velveteen.jpg For a bedtime story, it’s a bit long. We started it several times only for Margaret to lose interest once the character the Skin Horse starts extolling advice to the Velveteen Rabbit. But now that she’s institutionalized (i.e., in kindergarten), she’s willing to have us read a portion of a longer book each night before bed. One Sunday night her dad read the first half of the book and I sat down that Monday evening to finish the tale. I was actually looking forward to finding out what happens to the demure fuzzy sack o’ sawdust. Despite the fact that the story ends with the Velveteen Rabbit turning into a real rabbit, it is no feel good story. Margaret and I were both in tears. Yes, we may both be a tad bit over sensitive, but what the heck is up with this story? The Velveteen Rabbit gets put into the burn barrel because the quack of a doctor decides he’s full of scarlet fever germs. The burn barrel, for Pete’s sake. The gentle boy loved the Velveteen Rabbit. The Velveteen Rabbit wanted to become real — not a pile of ash and glass eyes. Margaret was disturbed by many things in this story. First, was the idea that beloved stuffed animals got old and worn and their eyes will fall out. She kept wailing over the fact that her own Bunny was going to get old and his eyes would fall out. Now the alternate title for “The Velveteen Rabbit? is •How Toys Become Real.? Yeah, I•ve got a better one: “How to Make your Kid a Complete Obsessive Freak.? Margaret is now horrified by the idea that any of her kajillion stuffed animals will get old and then sent to the horrific death of being burnt at the stake. She wants to keep them all forever. For. Ever. In the past, I•ve culled the herd of free-range stuffed animals that live in Margaret’s room for time to time. Not any more. To Ms. Margery Williams, I say: “Thanks a whole bunch, lady!? Now my kid is going to go through life with a boxes of pristine stuffed animals that she•ll never be able to touch for fear of wearing them out and can’t get rid of either because they’ll end up in some hellish land of hosed up stuff animals. Margaret’s gonna end up one of those freaky chicks with weird collections that take up all her closet space. No one will date her except those sunless creatures who spend all their time buying memorabilia on eBay for sports they never actually play. Then she’ll likely marry one of those people and he’ll catch a heart attack from all the Arby’s beef ‘n’ cheddar sandwiches he shoves in his piehole all day long, leaving her alone with her hosed-up stuffed animal collections and a load of Mookie Williams’ rookie cards and Jason Kidd sneakers. I’m gonna make my kid watch more TV.

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